As behavioural Optometrists, we have children referred to us from all over the country by concerned parents and teachers because the child is not making progress at school or is not reaching their full potential.
The hope was always that they have might have some sort of visual problem which can easily be corrected and solve the child’s reading issue. In reality, unfortunately, this was almost never the case and we sent the child back to their home or school with a clean bill of visual health, but not having helped them at all with their reading problem.
About two years ago, Classic Eyes decided that this was no longer good enough. We were seeing these children year after year for their routine sight tests and invariably, in spite of enormous effort by parents and teachers, nothing had changed, and the child was still having problems. We wanted to know why.
We heard of the work being done by a specialist company called Taylor Associates in the US and it is here, that I believe, for some children at least, we have found an answer.
How is the Taylor Associates Program going to help?
All of us have a different reading technique, and it is acquired as a young child, in a quite haphazard way. Very much like walking, no one teaches us how to walk, We learn to walk by ourselves and we all walk slightly differently. These are physiological tasks, meaning, they can not be taught but can be trained.
If you have a poor reading technique, you can not be taught a better technique, but you can definitely be trained to have a better technique.
There are certain key indicators that tell us how well a child reads such as:
- The number of fixations per hundred words,
- The number of regressions per hundred words,
- The span of recognition,
- Cross correlation,
- Reading rate per hundred words.
If we have established that the reading process is mostly subliminal, and that your technique is self acquired, and is made up of physiological tasks, then we have explained why so many children show so little improvement, even with the one to one help they are getting at school. We have also established one other very important thing…
We can’t blame our teachers, because the child can not be instructed to concentrate on their span of recognition, or their number of fixations, or number of regressions or any other of these key reading skills. They have absolutely no control over these tasks.
For a fuller explanation of this, we suggest you read the ‘Explanation of the Taylor Associates Program’.
Where does this information come from?
Lots and lots of research, almost all done in America, and a lot of it done by Taylor Associates. Since the 1930s, the Taylor family have been pioneers in researching and developing reading technologies. In a study involving over ten thousand children, Taylor established that the single biggest factor deciding a student’s academic potential is their ability to efficiently process and comprehend written text.
In other words, their silent reading fluency. No matter how intelligent a child is or what their potential is, they will not excel academically with a poor reading technique.
Following this research the US education department concerned about falling levels of literacy decided to introduce DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read). So for a time all children had to spend forty five minutes every day just reading. Did it make any difference?
Why? because research tells us that only good readers get better by independent silent reading. Poor readers will show very little improvement. This makes sense, as if your habitual reading technique is poor, it is not going to get any better by continually practicing the same poor technique.
How does the Taylor Associates program help?
This used to be quite a dilemma, as measuring silent reading fluency is almost impossible — after all, the child is reading to themselves. Massive advances in computer technology have allowed the development of the Visagraph.
The Visagraph™ III is an objective measurement system used for recording and evaluating reading efficiency (fluency) and effectiveness. In minutes, a detailed analysis of an individual’s reading performance can be generated. The Visagraph™ III provides a comparison of measurements in relation to Taylor’s National Grade Level Normative Data and Goals (for more information, see: Visagraph.com).
So in minutes, we can establish whether any student has a reading deficiency, and it not only tells that there is a problem, but goes a long way towards telling us what the problem is and how to fix it.
Taylor have developed the Reading Plus program, now widely used in the US with over 1 million children using the program. Massive amounts of research have been carried out on Reading Plus, and you can accesses it on their website: ReadingPlus.com.
In our own private clinics and in three independent and state school trials, we have had phenomenal results. In our three clinics, we have now put almost one hundred children through the program and their results have astounded us, their teachers, and parents, but, above all, themselves.
In fact, every child who has used the program has shown great improvement. The anecdotal evidence from the children, teachers and parents has been a revelation. A great amount of satisfaction is to be gained in seeing a child realise that they are not stupid and watching their self-esteem grow by leaps and bounds.
Our only regret is that more children do not have access to this program and that we are not using it in schools as they do in the US.
Who is it for?
CLASSIC Eyes provides individualised instruction appropriate for students from grade levels through college and adulthood, who are struggling with reading or who want to become more proficient readers. These courses can be delivered online or administered through a local area network, thereby enabling students in a wide variety of settings to take advantage of the benefits.
The programs are available to:
- Reading Clinics and Tutors,
Actual results from CLASSIC Eyes’ eye care centre in Witney:
|Patient||Scan rate (lpm)||Reading rate (lpm)||Lessons/week|
Case Study: Daniel W
Daniel W is 8 years old and when tested passed his routine eye examination with ease. When questioned by the optometrist he mentioned that he saw the letters move around and that they sometimes disappeared on and off the page. His parents were surprised that he never mentioned it to them but young Daniel replied that he told anyone as he assumed it was the same for everyone.
Vision is more than 20/20 eyesight. It is a complex process that involves over 20 different processes and two thirds of the pathways to the brain. Nearly 80% of what a child perceives, understands and remembers depends on the effectiveness of their visual system. Vision is a learned skill and modern activities such as watching television or computer screens have replaced games that taught the development of good vision skills.
Daniel’s assessment and subsequent therapy led to increased reading rates and vastly improved comprehension.
The best way to treat visual problems is to prevent it before it occurs! We need to observe our children more and ask them how they see.
What can you do to help your child?
Work with them to ensure that all three parts of your child’s visual capacity are working properly.
If a non-refractive visual dysfunction is part of your child’s learning difficulty, special lenses or vision therapy may help. If your child’s visual function is not an issue, your CLASSIC Eyes practitioner will provide referrals to appropriate specialists, your family doctor or a paediatrician.
Also keep in mind that children with learning difficulties may experience emotional problems as well, such as depression, low self-esteem, anxiety and stress. Reassure your child that help is available and he or she is not stupid. Many children with learning difficulties have above-average IQs and simply process information differently from their peers.